Saturday, January 20, 2007

Confucius sez one picture is worth ten thousand words

Nerdified link.

Shorter Alberto Gonzales

The Magna Carta is just a useless piece of paper.

The "Surge" and Iran

Something that jumped out at me:
Recall that, according to the neocon-friendly New York Sun, Bill Kristol was urging the White House back in September to obtain from Congress an Authorization to Use Military Force against Iran when the Republicans still controlled Congress, and he even argued that doing so was the only way to swing the election in favor of the Republicans. The people who want a surge are the same people who want a war against Iran, and the latter is what is driving the former. It is all part of the same worldview and agenda and it is one the President has embraced.
My emphasis added. One question to be asked, of course, is the extent to which the current US Congress will be complicit in any future war crimes committed against Iranians. As there is plenty of overlap between the current Congress and the Congressional sessions complicit in war crimes against Iraqi and Afghan people, I wouldn't exactly hold out a lot of hope for a change now.

Social Death

A while back I made mention of Claudia Card's conception of social death as central to our understanding of genocide. By way of reminder:
Specific to genocide is the harm inflicted on its victims' social vitality. It is not just that one's group membership is the occasion for harms that are definable independently of one's identity as a member of the group. When a group with its own cultural identity is destroyed, its survivors lose their cultural heritage and may even lose their intergenerational connections. To use Orlando Patterson's terminology, in that event, they may become "socially dead" and their descendants "natally alienated," no longer able to pass along and build upon traditions, cultural developments (including languages) and projects of earlier generations (1982, 5-9). The harm of social death is not necessarily less extreme than that of physical death. Social death can even aggravate physical death by making it indecent, removing all respectful and caring ritual, social connections, and social contexts that are capable of making dying bearable and even of making one's death meaningful. In my view, the special evil in genocide lies in its infliction not just of physical death (when it does that) but of social death, producing a consequent meaninglessness of one's life and even of its termination.
An article that may illuminate the genocidal nature of the Israeli government's treatment of native Palistinians is Loss of a Native Land, which focuses on the recollections and perspective of a 99 year old Palestinian who was displaced (along with initially 700,000 fellow natives) by the Israelis.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Don't get too excited about the $50 per barrel oil

True, those prices have been dropping as of late. Who knows, if Bu$hCo doesn't do something stupid, like bomb Iran, those prices might stay down in the $50 range for a spell. Oh, wait. That's Bu$hCo we're talking about. With all this talk of escalating the war in Iraq as well as positioning naval warships near the Persian Gulf, one could imagine the temptation among those in the White House to send a few B-1 Bombers to wreak havoc on the Iranian infrastructure. Heck, an actual invasion isn't in the cards - there just isn't enough army left for such an undertaking. There sure would be a whole lot of suffering as a consequence though:
Iran has plenty of options to hurt the US. The Shia militias in Iraq, which have largely ignored U.S. forces unless harassed, are tight with the Iranians, having received shelter and support from Iran during Hussein’s rule, and sharing, as they do, a common religion. If Iran comes under attack, it is hard to believe that the Iraqi militias will not turn their substantial firepower on outnumbered US forces in Iraq.

When you think of it, attacking Iran would be a wonderful way of doing what the U.S. claims it has been wanting to do for several years now: uniting the Sunni and Shia forces in Iraq and ending their fratricidal conflict.

And then there’s the economic costs of an Iran War. Here Iran really has to do nothing, though it could make things all the worse by using one of its high-tech anti-ship missiles to sink an American naval vessel or even just a civilian tanker in the gulf. Even without such an action, an invasion of Iran would lead to a shutdown of oil coming from the Persian Gulf. That’s one quarter of all the oil supplies in the world. Even if Iran never fires a missile, the insurance industry will make it impossible for any ship-owner to sail into the gulf.

So forget $80/barrel oil. Crude oil would quickly soar past $100 a barrel, past $160 a barrel, probably. Some analysts have even talked of $200 a barrel. No matter—after $100 a barrel, the world economy would grind to a halt. And the American trade deficit would go through the roof. We’re not talking slowdown here; we’re talking global depression.
There you have it: rogue nation defying UN and Nuremberg charters cause both enormous loss of lives and global economic depression. Completely preventable of course: Congress could actually put an end to funding White House military misadventures. I have grave doubts about Congressional "leaders" having the gumption to do so. Once the wheels come off the economy and the spigot that fuels the US military is turned off, substantial portions of the global community will be in a position to impose their own solutions regarding US militarism. I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if the current movement toward escalation of war in the Middle East continues on its present course.

The banality of warfare in American discourse

Glenn Greenwald has been providing me with quite a few writing prompts as of late. Something that caught my attention:
...I will just note that in the course of all the reading I did for my book of the pre-Iraq War "debates" this country had both on television and in print, what is most striking in retrospect is the casual and breezy tone which America collectively now discusses and thinks about war as a foreign policy option, standing inconspicuously next to all of the other options. There is really no strong resistance to it, no sense that it is a supremely horrible and tragic thing in all cases to undertake -- and particularly to start. Gone almost completely from our mainstream political discourse is horror over war. The most one hears is some cursory and transparently insincere -- almost bored -- lip service to its being a "last resort."

There are probably numerous reasons for this. Many claim that the senseless Vietnam disaster instilled in Americans an exaggerated resistance to war, a refusal to recognize it as necessary even when it really was. Whether that is true or not, I think the "wars" the U.S. fought in the 1980s and 1990s led Americans to the opposite extreme. The wars fought by the Reagan administration were covert (in Central America) or absurdly easy and bloodless (in Grenada). But the most consequential force pushing Americans to lose their instinctive resistance to war was probably the First Persian Gulf War -- everyone's favorite. It was the first fully televised war, and it made war seem like nothing more significant than killing bad people by zapping them from the sky with super high-tech, precision weaponry that risked nothing -- war as video game, cheered on safely and clinically from a distance.

We started getting to feel the power and strength that comes from triumph with none of the costs (the fact that "war" is the word we use for almost everything - on terrorism, drugs, etc. has cetainly helped to desensitize us to its invocation; if we wage wars on everything, how bad can they be?). The things that make war tragic and vile were all whitewashed away. That is why the American media never shows truly graphic photos of carnage in Iraq, why the Bush administration bars photographs of American war coffins, and why the few truly brutal though commonplace events that were captured partially on film or video -- Abu Grahib or the Saddam hanging -- resonated so strongly. We are able to forget or pretend that those things are the consequences of the wars we cheer except when we are forced to see them.

In our political discourse, there just no longer is a strong presumption against war. In fact, it's almost as though there is a reverse presumption -- that we should proceed to wage wars on whatever countries we dislike or which are defying our orders in some way unless someone can find compelling reasons not to. The burden is now on those who would like not to engage in a series of endless wars to demonstrate why we should not.
The reason for highlighting the above is that it dovetails fairly well with my observations over the past couple decades. When we examine the American Zeitgeist, we find that warfare has an air of banality to it. Part of that has to do with the militarization of our language over the course of several decades. In discourse over public policy, since the Johnson administration in the 1960s we've had a "war on poverty," a "war on drugs," a "war on terrorism" and so on. The term "war" is used so loosely as to detach it from the raw brutality that previous generations would have associated with the concept. In addition, we've witnessed a change in the way war is presented via public mass media: it has become sanitized considerably. Like Greenwald, I can certainly recall being struck by how much the Gulf War footage from 1991 resembled a videogame. One was left with the notion of warfare as a series of "dots" to be zapped. The American public has also been shielded from the human consequences of war: they typically don't see the body bags or the flag-draped coffins, let alone the carnage caused by cluster bombs, air raids, and such. Furthermore, the impression that Americans get of those who reside in the lands that are invaded and occupied by US forces is little more than a caricature - the Iraqis are lazy and hapless, or are savage Islamofascists hell-bent on destroying the great beacon of democracy, ad nauseum. In the process, the ability to empathize with those most likely to be targeted by the American war machine has been grossly diminished.

What we are left with is an American public that conceives of and discusses warfare in much the same way that one might discuss The World Series. I can't help but think of death as a messy enough ordeal under the most ideal of circumstances (seen enough of it after four decades of existence), and from what one can gather both from alternative media and from discussion with those who have "been there" one can get a clear picture that war-inflicted death is far more of an ordeal. Americans have seemingly lost the ability or the gumption to understand that.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Shorter Hillary Clinton

"With genocide in Iraq a smashing success, why not finish the job in Afghanistan instead?"

Postscript: A reflection of an authoritarian America on the verge of war

The rest of the Greenwald post that I referred to is worth a look, as a reminder of the scummy level of discourse that characterized the mainstream American media in the months prior to the start of the Iraq War (aka Mess O' Potamia, or The Debacle in the Desert). The "experts" who propagandized that ensuing catastrophe didn't bother to engage critics of this government on the merits of ideas and evidence, but instead engaged in character assassinations (an example of which Greenwald provides). Let's just say that Greenwald's narrative brings back some dark memories.

I'd reckon that those who have suffered most from the nearly four years of quagmire would have plenty of words for the likes of Beinert, Goldberg, Brazille, Krauthammer, Blitzer, et al.

For Ritter, and any of the rest of us who have been vindicated from the facts on the ground over the past several years, we are left with no satisfaction - the loss in life, livelihood, and treasure have been too vast.

Altemeyer's latest book

Or at least the intro and the first chapter of The Authoritarians, is now available online. Since that's one of my research interests, I'll be curious to see what else Bob Altemeyer has been up to since his last book (aside from some journal articles he's published fairly recently).

Hat tip to Glenn Greenwald.

Shorter The Oklahoman

"The fact that it sure is cold and icy today proves that scientific research on global warming is unfounded."

Bu$hCo loots: Everyone else gets hosed.

Paul Krugman remarks on the similarities between the Iraq War Fiasco and the Keating savings and loan scandal. I'd say he's on to something:
The parallel is actually quite exact. During the savings and loan scandal of the 1980s, people like Mr. Keating kept failed banks going by faking financial success. Mr. Bush has kept a failed war going by faking military success.

The "surge" is just another stalling tactic, designed to buy more time.

Oh, and one of the favorite techniques used by the owners of savings and loan associations to generate phony profits - it involved making high-interest loans to crooked or flaky real estate developers - came to be known as the "Texas strategy."

What was the point of the Texas strategy? Bank owners were certainly gambling - with other people's money, of course - in the hope of a miraculous recovery that would bail out their negative balance sheets.

But the real point of the racket was a form of looting: as long as they could keep reporting high paper profits, S.&L. owners could keep rewarding themselves with salaries, dividends and sweetheart business deals.

Mr. Keating paid himself a million dollars just weeks before his holding company collapsed.

Which brings us to Iraq. The administration has spent the last three years pretending that its splendid little war isn't a big disaster. There have been the bromides (we're making "good progress"); the promises (we have a "strategy for victory"); and, as always, attacks on the media for not reporting the good news from Iraq.


So it's still the Texas strategy: the war's architects are trying to keep their failed venture going as long as possible.

The Hail Mary aspect - the off chance that somehow, things really will turn out all right - is the least of their motivations. The real intent is a form of looting. I'm not talking mainly about old-fashioned war profiteering, although there is no question that profiteering is taking place on an epic scale. No, I'm saying that the hawks want to keep this war going because it's to their personal and political benefit.

True, Mr. Bush can't win another election with phony claims of success in Iraq, the way he did in 2004. But escalation buys him another year or two to claim that we're making progress - and it gives him another chance to prove that he's the Decider, beyond accountability.

And as for pundits who promoted the war and are now trying to sell the surge: for a little while longer they can be Very Important People who have the president's ear.
My emphasis added. Krugman offers some sage advice for dealing with the Iraq War scam: just like with a failed bank, when you have a failed war, shut the thing down! The rest of us have already been hosed one way or another - why make it worse.

To give one some idea of how bad things are, here's a few words by Dahr Jamail:
U.S. soldiers have been reacting wildly to attacks on them.

Several areas of Fallujah recently went without electricity for two weeks after U.S. soldiers attacked the power station following a sniper attack.

Thubbat, Muhandiseen, Muallimeen, Jughaifi and most western parts of the city were affected. “They are punishing civilians for their failure to protect themselves,” a resident of Thubbat quarter told IPS. “I defy them to capture a single sniper who kills their soldiers.”

Many of those killed in the ongoing violence are civilians. The biggest local complaint is that U.S. forces attack civilians at random in revenge for colleagues killed in attacks by the resistance.

More than 5,000 civilians killed by U.S. soldiers have been buried in Fallujah cemeteries and mass graves dug on the outskirts of the city, according to the Study Centre for Human Rights and Democracy, a non-governmental organisation based in Fallujah.

“At least half the deceased are women, children and elderly people,” group co-director Mohamad Tareq al-Deraji told IPS.

Overstretched U.S. soldiers appear to be punishing civilians while suffering from some form of post-traumatic stress disorder. IPS reported Jan. 3 that new guidelines released by the Pentagon last month allow commanders now to re-deploy soldiers suffering from such disorders.

According to the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes, service members with “a psychiatric disorder in remission, or whose residual symptoms do not impair duty performance” may be considered for duty downrange. It lists post-traumatic stress disorder as a “treatable” problem.

Steve Robinson, director of Veterans Affairs for Veterans for America told IPS correspondent Aaron Glantz that “as a layman and a former soldier I think that’s ridiculous.”

“If I’ve got a soldier who’s on Ambien to go to sleep and Seroquel and Qanapin and all kinds of other psychotropic meds, I don’t want them to have a weapon in their hand and to be part of my team because they’re a risk to themselves and to others,” he said. “But apparently, the military has its own view of how well a soldier can function under those conditions, and is gambling that they can be successful.”
Ron Paul (who may well be the lone anti-war Republican in 2008's Presidential nomination race), observes that just like with Vietnam, there is no way to "win" the Iraq War. Not only are any soldiers going over there getting hosed, but so too are the Iraqis: they get to be the target of our elites' ire in the form of victim blame (them Ay-rabs is too dumb and lazy to defend themselves - a claim that Paul and others can readily refute), as well as another round of looting in the form of a "jobs program" for Iraq (while manufacturing jobs in the US go the way of the dinosaur) on the taxpayers' dime.

Then the question becomes, where are the Democrats? I know that some very smart and well-intentioned people in blogtopia and elsewhere are convinced that the Dems will have the gumption to end the War fiasco and the accompanying scamming & haul the perps to some semblance of justice. They'd be well advised to not get their hopes up too much:

We find ourselves, almost four years into the Iraq war, in a very strange situation. What do you do when it has become obvious that the leader of your country is — there is no kinder way to put this — a delusional fool? And that his weird fantasy war is hopelessly and irretrievably lost? Apparently, you just wait. The Democrats are raging and ranting, but they will not cut off funds.. . . It’s no mystery why the Democrats will not pull the plug. Cutting off funding for an ongoing war is a radical move, one that would expose the Democrats to familiar stab-in-the-back charges that they don’t “support the troops.” Now that the ugly end of Bush’s war is in sight, why on earth would the Democrats want to risk being blamed for losing it?

This makes a certain political sense, but it is deeply cynical. It implicitly accepts that more young Americans must die for a policy that has no chance of working. They must die so that a cowardly president can delay his day of reckoning a few more months. They must die so that Democrats can wash their hands of the whole mess.

The only thing that could move the Democrats to abandon this cold-blooded calculation and challenge Bush’s war directly is a clear message from the American people. Not just their disapproval of Bush and his handling of the war[.]. . . For that to happen, large numbers of Americans would have to actually protest the war. A real, broad-based antiwar movement would immediately put an end to the war — and put the Bush presidency out of its misery.

Again, my emphasis added. To those Dems who might be toying with the idea to stop funding for the war and demanding that the fiasco be stopped once and for all, I'd offer some encouragement and to suggest that it would be better to end the war now as a matter of principle and deal with war hawks invoking the Dolchstoßlegende, than to do nothing, and still deal with the war hawks invoking the Dolchstoßlegende. In the process, I also strongly suggest that those who are responsible not only for the many dead and injured US troops but also the hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis were truly the ones who put the knife in the back of us all.

No money, no fame, but on the right side of history

There's something to be said for that. In the long run it beats the alternatives.

Monday, January 15, 2007

RIP Shadow:

??? - January 15, 2007

One of our cats died this afternoon. Shadow was a stray we took in early in 2003. We first noticed her hiding out in our garage just before Christmas 2002, where she'd periodically emerge to eat the dogs' food. I began leaving cat food out for her when we came back from our vacation in early January 2003, and eventually Madame and I managed to get her to trust us enough that she would come up to us.

By the time she joined the household, she was pregnant, and had a litter of four kittens (two of whom we kept), After that, Shadow was given the nickname "mamacita." We never knew her age - only that from the veterinarians that she had likely had several litters before we found her. My guess was that she was already an old-ish cat who had lived a rough existence as a stray - probably once a family pet. We'll never know.

Shadow remained a mystery to us for over four years. She never really mixed well with the other cats - at first fighting them all, then later retreating to our bedroom. Of course she did get along to an extent with her offspring, and showed some friendliness to the kitten we picked up late last year (something that caught me very much by surprise). Mostly, she hid from children, as well as any other household animal life with the exception of me and my wife. Given Shadow's eccentricities, we became her lifeline, and kept her trust.

She will be missed.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

RIP: Alice Coltrane

If not for Arcturus (hat tip to Nanette, btw) I would have completely missed this one - that's just how busy life has been lately. I've been a fan of hers for a while now - about the time I really got tuned in to the free jazz vibe I discovered her album Journey in Satchidananda. I was never the same.

Some clips from the LAT obituary:
Coltrane died Friday at West Hills Hospital and Medical Center in West Hills, according to an announcement from the family's publicist. She had been in frail health for some time and died of respiratory failure.

Though known to many for her contributions to jazz and early New Age music, Coltrane, a convert to Hinduism, was also a significant spiritual leader and founded the Vedantic Center, a spiritual commune now located in Agoura Hills. A guru of growing repute, she also served as the swami of the San Fernando Valley's first Hindu temple, in Chatsworth.

For much of the last nearly 40 years, she was also the keeper of her husband's musical legacy, managing his archive and estate. Her husband, one of the pivotal figures in the history of jazz, died of liver disease July 17, 1967, at the age of 40.

A pianist and organist, Alice Coltrane was noted for her astral compositions and for bringing the harp onto the jazz bandstand. Her last performances came in the fall, when she participated in an abbreviated tour that included stops in New York and San Francisco, playing with her saxophonist son, Ravi.

She was born Alice McLeod in Detroit on Aug. 27, 1937, into a family with deep musical roots. Anna, her mother, sang and played piano in the Baptist church choir. Alice's half brother Ernie Farrow was a bassist who played professionally with groups led by saxophonist Yusef Lateef and vibes player Terry Gibbs.


She met her future husband in 1963 while playing an engagement with Gibbs' group at Birdland in New York City.

"He saw something in her that was beautiful," Gibbs, who has often taken credit for introducing the two, told The Times on Saturday. "They were both very shy in a way. It was beautiful to see them fall in love."

Gibbs called her "the nicest person I ever worked with. She was a real lady."

She left Gibbs' band to marry Coltrane and began performing with his band in the mid-1960s, replacing pianist McCoy Tyner. She developed a style noted for its power and freedom and played tour dates with Coltrane's group in San Francisco, New York and Tokyo.

She would say her husband's musical impact was enormous.

"John showed me how to play fully," she told interviewer Pauline Rivelli and Robert Levin in comments published in "The Black Giants."

"In other words, he'd teach me not to stay in one spot and play in one chord pattern. 'Branch out, open up … play your instrument entirely.' … John not only taught me how to explore, but to play thoroughly and completely."

After his death, she devoted herself to raising their children. Musically, she continued to play within his creative vision, surrounding herself with such like-minded performers as saxophonists Pharoah Sanders and Joe Henderson.

Early albums under her name, including "A Monastic Trio," and "Ptah the El Daoud," were greeted with critical praise for her compositions and playing. "Ptah the El Daoud" featured her sweeping harp flourishes, a sound not commonly heard in jazz recordings. Her last recording, "Translinear Light," came in 2004. It was her first jazz album in 26 years.

Through the 1970s, she continued to explore Eastern religions, traveling to India to study with Swami Satchidananda, the founder of the Integral Yoga Institute.

Upon her return she started a store-front ashram in San Francisco but soon moved it to Woodland Hills in 1975. Located in the Santa Monica Mountains since the early 1980s, the ashram is a 48-acre compound where devotees concentrate on prayer and meditation.

Known within her religious community by her Sanskrit name, Turiyasangitananda, Coltrane focused for much of the last 25 years on composing and recording devotional music such as Hindu chants, hymns and melodies for meditation. She also wrote books, including "Monumental Ethernal," a kind of spiritual biography, and "Endless Wisdom," which she once told a Times reporter contained hundreds of scriptures divinely revealed to her.

In 2001 she helped found the John Coltrane Foundation to encourage jazz performances and award scholarships to young musicians.

In addition to Ravi, she is survived by another son, Oren, who plays guitar and alto sax; a daughter, Michelle, who is a singer; and five grandchildren. Her son John Coltrane Jr. died in an automobile accident in 1982.
A description of Alice I wrote almost three years ago:
Alice was John Coltrane's second wife, whom he married in the early 1960s and who was a regular member of his band during the last year and a half of his life. She made a name for herself as a hardbop pianist, but she also was an accomplished harpist. This latter instrument became a prominent feature on her solo recordings and gigs after John's untimely death. Her first solo recordings (1968-1970) fit in nicely with the avant-garde scene of the time, and she and her bandmates demonstrate that they can swing and skronk with the best of them. It's with Journey in Satchidananda that Alice really begins to shine as a unique voice in jazz. That album not only featured the harp prominently, but also introduced a fair amount of Indian (tabla, sitar) and Mediterranean (oud) instrumentation. The pieces begin to move more slowly and seem intended to induce a calm meditative trance. As the 1970s progressed, Alice began to add strings to the mix, creating a pastiche of sound that draws on jazz, Indian classical, and 19th & 20th Century Impressionism. After recording for Impulse!, she moved to Warner Bros. for her final albums (1975-1978). I can only imagine what must have gone through the minds of WB execs when they heard her recording sessions, as she moved increasingly away from jazz and increasingly toward traditional Hindu musical meditations. She must have been an absolute nightmare for the marketing types. If she had to leave the jazz world, she at least left on a high note, with a live piano trio album that was released in 1978. After that, she essentially retired from the jazz scene and concentrated her energies exclusively on her Vedanta Center in California, where she has gone by the name of Swamini Turiyasangitananda.

Most of her recorded work is currently in print, with the exception of several Impulse! recordings (which may or may not see the light of day depending on the whim of the conglomerate that now owns the Impulse! catalog, Vivendi-Universal). Albums I especially dig: P'tah the El Daoud, Journey in Satchidinanda, Universal Consciousness, and Eternity (I especially dig the first two on this list). World Galaxy is also pretty strong, and features her interpretation of her late husband's classic "A Love Supreme." I haven't picked up Transfiguration yet, although from what I read it appears to be a strong recording that nicely synthesizes her hardbop and free jazz roots and her Indian musical sensibilities in the context of a piano trio.
Since that writing, I've managed to pick up Transfiguration (well-worth getting) and her other WB albums (which definitely are much more "New Age" if that's the right term than jazz). I especially loved her ability to do free improv on the harp - absolutely stunning. A few words I penned about her last album, Translinear Light (2004, Impulse!):
About the new Alice Coltrane cd, I'll say this: it's great. Alice's piano, organ, and synthesizer work is showcased in a number of different contexts, from her standard keyboard trio, to duos with her son Oran Coltrane (who plays synthesizer on one piece) and Charlie Haden (the legendary bassist of Ornette Coleman and Old & New Dreams fame), as well as some quartet pieces featuring her son Ravi on sax. About a third of the album is devoted to traditional Hindu and African American spirituals. She also tackles a couple of her late husband's tunes (Crescent and Leo), and performs a few of her originals (including a blast from 1970's Ptah the El Daoud, Blue Nile). It's a gentler recording than the workouts she cut back in the 1970s, but the spiritual intensity that characterizes all of her back catalog shines through. My only complaint, and it's relatively minor: she's a wonderful harpist, and I was a bit disappointed that she didn't play that wonderful instrument this time around. Definitely recommended for fans, and if you've never experienced her work before, it's a pretty decent introduction to what she's about - though I'd very strongly recommend subsequently checking out her classic 1970s Impulse! outings, such as Ptah the El Daoud and Journey in Satchidananda (In fact it was those two albums that turned me into a fan several years ago). Beautiful music from a genuinely beautiful soul. It is so good that the jazz world has not lost her voice.
Sadly, as of Friday, her voice was lost. We'll give thanks for the legacy she leaves as a musician, composer, author, spiritual leader, and human being.


Risky Business: The Collapse of Junior Caligula's Presidency

The polls keep on signaling new lows for Bu$hCo's approval. As Glenn Greenwald notes:
From Rasmussen Reports, the favorite polling firm of Bush followers:
For the second straight day, 35% of Americans approve of the way that George W. Bush is performing his role as President. That’s the lowest level of Approval ever measured by Rasmussen Reports.
That polling was conducted after the President's "surge" speech. What is particularly notable is this observation:
It is interesting to note that the last time the President’s Approval Ratings hit a new low followed the President’s speech on immigration. Typically, President’s (sic) expect to get a positive bounce following a national address.
It really is striking that whenever one is convinced that Bush's unpopularity ratings have reached their nadir, the one thing that can always drive them even further downward is Bush's appearance on national television to explain himself to the country (or, to use Jules Crittenden's classic formulation: for the President to "address us . . . and show us the way forward"). Even after six years, the more Americans see and hear from George Bush, the more they dislike him.

The collapse of the Bush presidency is truly historic. It is always worth remembering that when Richard Nixon was forced to resign the Presidency, his Gallup approval rating was 25%. The 35% Rasmussen figure for Bush is above the low points measured by most other polls (which is why it is the favorite metric for Bush followers), but it is still abominably low. AP-Ipsos reported several days ago that Bush had just reached an all-time low in its poll -- 32%.
So far, so good. Keep putting the Prez on national tv often enough and he'll be as popular as ebola. One would think that would effectively make him a lame duck with no ability to advance whatever agenda he might have, or to continue "staying the course" on an unpopular war (let alone try escalation) that has proven to be a debacle even to the majority of its initial supporters. One would think. Trouble is, this isn't any ordinary White House administration. Rather the current jackals in the White House act much more like a junta than as elected public servants, ones who as Greenwald notes, continue to seek power for its own sake and who are likely to do more damage the more weakened the junta becomes:
The reason Bush violated the law when eavesdropping is the same reason Lithwick cites to explain his other lawless and extremist measures -- because he wanted purposely not to comply with the law in order to establish the general "principle" that he was not bound by the law, to show that he has the power to break the law, that he is more powerful than the law. This is a President and an administration that are obsessed first and foremost with their own power and with constant demonstrations of their own strength. Conversely, what they fear and hate the most is their own weakness and submission to limitations.

For that reason, the weaker and more besieged the administration feels, the more compelled they will feel to make a showing of their power. Lashing out in response to feelings of weakness is a temptation most human beings have, but it is more than a mere temptation for George Bush. It is one of the predominant dynamics that drives his behavior.

His party suffered historic losses in the 2006 midterm elections as a result of profound dissatisfaction with his presidency and with his war, and his reaction was to escalate the war, despite (really, because of) the extreme unpopularity of that option. And as Iraq rapidly unraveled, he issued orders that pose a high risk of the conflict engulfing Iran. When he feels weak and restrained, that is when he acts most extremely.

Bush officials and their followers talk incessantly about things like power, weakness, domination, humiliation. Their objectives -- both foreign and domestic -- are always to show their enemies that they are stronger and more powerful and the enemies are weaker and thus must submit ("shock and awe"). It is a twisted world view but it dominates their thinking (and that is how our country has been governed for the last six years, which is what accounts for our current predicament). As John Dean demonstrated, a perception of one's weakness and the resulting fears it inspires are almost always what drive people to seek out empowering authoritarian movements and the group-based comforts of moral certitude.

The most dangerous George Bush is one who feels weak, powerless and under attack. Those perceptions are intolerable for him and I doubt there are many limits, if there are any, on what he would be willing to do in order to restore a feeling of power and to rid himself of the sensations of his own weakness and defeat.
The remedy that the Democratic mainstream is using is that of riding out the last two years of Junior Caligula's term and hope for the best. In the meantime, they can use the vicious and incompetent figurehead as a political albatross around the GOP's neck in 2008. The folks who think it'll be that easy are fooling themselves. This White House regime considers itself above the law. The use of signing statements to weasel out of following laws passed by Congress in itself suggests that this is a presidency that is much more comfortable ruling by decree than governing by consent. The next two year promise to get a whole hell of a lot worse unless someone puts the brakes on this junta permanently - ideally that "someone" would be Congress, following the lead of former representative Cynthia McKinney and moving forward on impeachment proceedings.

Update: Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr

Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr was abducted by the CIA and renditioned to Egypt. A more complete account of Nasr's ordeal follows. We offered up some excerpts of his written statements a couple months ago.
Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, set down on paper his version of his abduction in Italy and imprisonment in Egypt. The 6,300-word letter, written in Arabic script and smuggled out of Egypt's Torah Prison by a visitor, is now in the hands of Italian prosecutors, who say they plan to offer it to the court as his testimony in absentia. Here is the text of the letter in English from a translator hired by the Tribune. It is a complete text except for a few edits and missing words that are noted in brackets.

This is how they kidnapped me from Italy … and how they tortured and imprisoned me in Egypt

I / Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr known by the name "Abu Omar" the kidnapped Islamist off the Italian streets of Milan on 17-02-03 by U.S. intelligence agents as well as agents of other countries and the currently imprisoned in the Torah reception jail in Cairo.

I record my testimony from within my tomb and gravesite: and my body has weakened and my mind has become distracted and my illnesses have increased and the signs of my death and termination have appeared.

I record my testimony from within my tomb and gravesite: and my facial features have been altered by the screams of the tortured and the sounds of the whips and the hell of the jail cells.

I record my testimony from within my tomb and gravesite: and I am powerless to do anything other than give the highest thanks and loyalty and appreciation to all who have lit a candle light of hope on the road leading to the uncovering of the mystery of my kidnapping from Italy and my imprisonment and torture in Egypt.

Before I start telling my testimony, I regard it as my duty to give some important pieces of information that may reveal the mystery of my kidnapping and the parties involved in it:

1. One of the Egyptian security officials who was interrogating me told me, as I was blindfolded with my hands secured behind me, and dispossessed of all my clothes, naked as the day my mother had given birth to me, hanging from my feet, my head down, I say this interrogator told me that he visited Italy a little while prior to my kidnapping and he told me and described to me the Mosque in which I pray as well as the Mosque of the Islamic Cultural Institute on [Jenner] Street, he also described to me the streets leading to my home and the home building number as well as the floor that I live on; i.e. the Egyptian regime was aware of the kidnapping operation and the Egyptian authorities may have been involved with the U.S. intelligence and others and I cannot describe this interrogator or identify his name as I was blindfolded.

2. One day after my kidnapping, as I heard from trusted sources in Italy, the Austrian security authorities subpoenaed Sheikh/ Shawky Mohamed who is an Austrian citizen and who works in the field of Da'wa [missionary work] and they asked him about everything with regards to a person called Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr (me), and none of my friends, or my wife or anyone had knowledge [missing words]. So did the plane that transported me above Austrian lands.

3. I ask that the Italian judiciary listen to the testimony of Mr. Nabil El Tounsi who is currently imprisoned in Milan for he has information that may be important regarding my kidnapping.

4. Approximately one month prior to my kidnapping, I used to receive phone calls on my cell phone and someone would ask: "Is Abu Omar there?" Or "could I speak to Abu Omar?" and when I would tell him that I am Abu Omar he would hang up, i.e. my cell phone was being monitored all day and night as well as my private computer, I would receive many emails which when I opened would result in causing defects to my computer.

5. One of the security officers in Egypt told Sheikh Mohamed Reda El Badry that there was a video camera inside Abu Omar's apartment in Milan and he was videotaped for a period of time that was not small. And now I begin to describe my kidnapping:

I was walking from my home on (Conti Verdi Street A18) in the middle of the day on Monday 17.02.2003 to perform my noon prayers at the Mosque of the Islamic Cultural Institute on [Jenner] Street, and I had left my job at the Mosque of the Islamic community on road 95 a few months prior to my kidnapping and all connections between me and those who prayed there had been severed.

I say: As I was going to perform my noon prayers, I had in my pockets the following items:

A. 450 Euros, I was going to pay 400 Euros, the rent amount for the apartment in which I resided with my wife.

B. My Italian passport (the political asylum passport)

C. The Italian Residency (the Sigorno).

D. My cell phone.

E. The social security card.

F. My medical card.

G. A watch that was in my hand.

H. My apartment keys (Conti Verdi Street A18).

And these items are present at the headquarters of the Egyptian Intelligence in Hadayek Al Quba across from the Republican Palace and I have not gotten them back to this date and they ordered me to write a declaration that I had come to Egypt without any possessions.

And I witnessed while outside the doorway of the building in which I reside, I witnessed a white van (about 2 ton) and completely closed, the van passed in front of me and I did not pay attention to it and as I walked on the street next to the mosque and across from a public park and a few meters away from uninhabited apartment buildings and a security kiosk at the bottom of the buildings, I saw a red Fiat 127 that stopped near the sidewalk where the gate to the public park is and the driver of the car rushed towards me and took out of his pocket a card and passed it in front of my face and told me police and asked for my Sigorno papers and so I took out my Italian passport as well as my Sigorno and showed them to him. He took out his phone and called a number that I don't know and began to give out my details and he was standing on the sidewalk where the buildings were and he was facing the public park while I had my back to the public park and was facing the officer and the features of this person who stopped me suggested that he was an American: His hair was blonde with a bald spot in the front and his face was white with a reddish tint and he was about 169 cms in height and my entire focus was on this person and so I did not pay attention to the car that kidnapped me and which is the same car that passed in front of me as I left my home (the white van) and I think that this van arrived as this person was speaking to me and parked by the sidewalk on which I stood. Suddenly, I was being lifted off the ground so I turned my head and saw two Italian-looking people each of whom was at least 187 cms tall or maybe more and who seemed to be in their thirties, as for the American, he was probably in his forties.

And an Egyptian woman who was walking witnessed my kidnapping and she resides on the same street that I was kidnapped off and she was the one who informed the Arabs in the mosque on [Jenner] Street-the cultural institute.

I say: I saw myself lifted into the van so I tried to resist but I was severely beaten in my stomach and the rest of my body and was forced down onto the floor of the car and my face was then masked and the van was dark inside after the door was shut and my hands and feet were then tied and the car sped away while I was in pain from the severity of the beating and as the car drove on, my physical power began to collapse and sounds came out of my mouth that resembled the death gurgle and liquid came out of my mouth (white foam) and my body began to stretch out and both my legs began to stretch out strongly and unawares a few drops of urine fell from me without my will and then I heard the screams of one of these two persons who kidnapped me and they both began to tear at my clothes quickly and one of them began to compress on my heart (massage) and the other removed the mask on my face and pointed a small light onto my eyes and then after he was reassured that my eyes were following the light he covered my face again and spoke with his partner and they both left me.

The car drove on for many hours, I don't think I would be mistaken if I said around 4 hours approximately and then the car stopped and some people carried me by the arms and legs after removing my shoes and taking them and I don't know whether they were other than the two people who were with me in the car and who kidnapped me off the streets of Milan. And was I transferred to another car or onto a small plane? I'm not sure. But what I can say is that I felt no air bumps or shortness of breath the way it happens to those who ride a plane. At the same time I felt no shaking or the presence of bumps as those who ride a car might feel.

And I don't think that they sedated me for I was self-aware and aware of those around me although the awareness was not full perhaps because of the beatings and the pain I was feeling or maybe they did lightly sedate me, all conjectures are possible.

The car or the plane went on for a short while, about an hour or slightly longer and then they took me out and put me somewhere while I was still blindfolded and with my hands and legs still tied, this place where they put me is an airport, I recognized that from the sounds of the air conditioners or the sounds of engines or maybe both. They left me alone for a while or maybe they were with me but I heard after a short while the sounds of many feet maybe 7 or 8 sets. After that they stood me on my feet and began to cut the plastic restrictions binding my feet and they removed my clothes and they definitely cut off my clothes with tools that they had for I did not feel their hands and they did the same with the restrictions on my hands and they dressed me in other clothes and in a sudden moment they removed the blindfold that was on my eyes and I saw many men or shadows in front of me, for I could not see very well because of the length of time that I was blindfolded; these people were wearing the same clothes like the ones worn by special units and I saw in the many pockets in their clothes tools such as those carried by men of special operations such as knives and screwdrivers … etc. I saw all of this in just a few seconds in which they photographed me and then they bound my whole head and face with wide adhesive tape (wide Sellotape as it is called in Egypt) and they left an opening for my nose and one for my mouth and they tied my feet and hands from behind with plastic binds and then they lifted me into an airplane, I realized that it was a plane after it flew for I felt what a passenger may feel at takeoff as in shortness of breath and a narrowness in the chest. Inside the plane, I felt an extreme chill to the extent that I thought that I was inside a fridge as the temperature was under zero and as the plane took off the temperature in the plane began to rise.

When I went on the plane I heard the sounds of soft classical music and I was lying down maybe on the floor and there was a mattress beneath me or maybe I was lying across more than one seat but I did not move left or right during the cruise and as the plane took off they placed earphones in my ears so I didn't hear anything other than music and the movement of feet of those on the plane. Were there others with me on the plane, passengers or other abductees? Was the plane a civilian plane or a military one? I know nothing.

I forgot to mention that they tied my right toe with wire I believe it was attached to an instrument that was measuring my heartbeats. And maybe they placed other wires on my body, I don't remember because I've been living in a state of terror, fright, fear and shock since I was kidnapped off the street and until the moment that I am writing these papers (the testimony) for I am absolutely certain that I will be physically eliminated after this brutal torture that I am experiencing day and night.

The plane flew for many hours, approximately 7 hours. I wasn't aware of our destination and I wasn't presented with any food from the moment of my abduction off the street. I experienced on the plane extreme difficulty breathing but nobody cared except after they were certain of my impending death then I felt a respirator invade my nose and they hit me several times on the face after which I felt that we had arrived at our desired destination as I felt the plane circling about the airport waiting for permission to land

Sure enough, it was only a few minutes before the plane began its descent and a little while later I felt someone tying my feet and hands with more plastic binds in addition to the ones already there, I screamed from the severity of the pain as if knives were cutting into my hands and feet and sure enough I was bleeding and I think they feared that I would do something as I was descending from the plane even though I was in a very bad health condition.

They removed the earplugs that were in my ears and I heard the sounds of airplane engines and the voices of people but I was unable to distinguish the language that they were speaking in. Then, I heard the sound of feet coming towards me and they carried me and stood me on my feet and they began to walk me and I saw myself go down about 3 or 4 steps and became certain that the plane was not a civilian plane or that it was a small military plane as the stairs to civilian planes are not less than 20 steps. As soon as my feet touched the ground, I heard someone speaking in Arabic with an Egyptian accent and say to me, "come up"--although he could see the bindings on my feet, so they helped me up, and it must have been a mini-bus. They seated me in the back seats and someone sat next to me and I think he saw the bleeding from my hands for I felt a knife cutting through the plastic binds and replaced by metal cuffs. I was scared to ask him to do the same with the plastic binds on my feet for I am dead dead for sure, so there is no harm in me being patient for the remaining hours before I meet the angel of death.

The mini-bus sped through the streets of Cairo and it was little under a half hour later when the vehicle stopped and the door was opened and they ordered me out. I didn't know where am I? What's the name of the place they were taking me to? I entered a building and in a room they removed the binds on my feet or to be more exact they cut the plastic binds on my feet and they directed me towards and facing a wall and they removed the tape on my face as I screamed in pain as the tape took out some of the hairs of my beard and mustache as well as my eyelashes and eyebrows and my face bled. They ordered me to open my eyes and close them very quickly and a few minutes later they began to completely undress me and they replaced the clothes and dressed me in blue garb (prison clothes) and I saw the faces of three Egyptian men of course and a photographer came and began to photograph me from all angles and then they bound my hands and feet and blindfolded me and took me to an office and I was in a terribly ill state. They sat me on a chair and I heard the voice of someone say to me, "We will begin interrogations with you now," and he began to ask me my name, age and everything about my job and family and my travel outside Egypt and then he said to me, "In the room there are two great Pashas and one of the Pashas will speak to you," (and the word Pasha in Egypt currently means someone of extreme importance either politician or military) and the great, great Pasha said to me, "Do you hear me well?" So, I answered, "Yes." Then he said to me, "I will ask you one question and I want a brief response from you without excess, actually no, just a one-word response. Do you accept to work with us in exchange for your safe return to Italy?" So, I said no and I wanted to continue but he said, "Be quiet, don't speak at all." [Brief passage redacted to remove unconfirmed speculation about Egyptian interrogator's identity.] After this, they took me to a cell approximately 2 meters by 1½ meters and which had no toilet and it had a simple light and a very small opening in the ceiling for penetration of air and they removed the bindings on my hands and feet as well as the blindfold on my eyes and I slept the first night or more correctly the first day, for it was approximately 5 or 6 a.m. since I had heard the call to dawn prayers when I first arrived at the building. I slept for a few hours out of extreme pain, worry, despair, fear and terror and then someone wearing a military uniform opened the cell door, I later learned that I was in the National Security and Egyptian Intelligence headquarters building, and he tied a blindfold around my eyes and took me to a bathroom and instructed me, "Do not remove the blindfold until after you enter the bathroom and the door is closed and knock on the door when you are done so that I may come and blindfold you again." Then they presented me with some food and about an hour later they opened the cell door and blindfolded me and tied my hands and took me to an office and the interrogations and torture began, they removed all my clothes and removed the binds on my hands and replaced them with other binds that were like three binds; 2 binds on my hands behind my back and one bind which they tied around one foot so that I was standing on one foot and I would fall to the floor naked as they laughed and lifted me back up and again and again and the electric shocks began as well as the hand beatings and the threats to rape me if I refused to talk and if I held back anything I knew and then they gave some paper and a pen and asked me to write everything about my life and to the day that I departed Egypt and what I did outside Egypt. The interrogations were repeated a number of times and they showed me many pictures of people in Italy (Egyptians, Tunisians, Algerians, Moroccans, etc.)

The atmosphere inside the cell was really bad despite the presence of lighting and despite leaving me without a blindfold but the size of the cell was like hell in the summer with the temperature approaching half boiling point (50 degrees Celsius) and as for the winter the temperature was close to 5 degrees below zero which led to my suffering from rheumatism and weak bones and pain in my chest.

The interrogation with me lasted a complete 7 months, I entered on 18-02-03 and left on 14-09-03. I managed one time to see an Islamist leader at night as the bathroom was outside the cells and each of us would bang on the door for a guard to open and take us and the guard took this leader and I looked through a tiny hole in the cell door and saw him.

Seven months passed as if seven years. I experienced pain and torture and reading papers and magazines was completely prohibited as well as radio and television or seeing family members, everything was prohibited, an unbearable hell and I kept myself busy by telling myself that my Italian government would not let me down and that the Italian ambassador will come and release me by force for I am an Italian citizen by law and hold an Italian passport, but none of this happened. During the interrogations, they asked me about some of the words written in my Italian passport and in the Sigorno and what they meant in Arabic and they asked about the phone numbers stored on my cell phone and then they told me that I was going to be moved to another place and they gave me two papers. One paper stated that I had been well treated and that I was never tortured and they forced me to sign it under the threat of further torture until I signed. As for the second paper, it stated that I had no belongings in their custody, so I refused and told them that I brought with me from Italy a few items that were on me and I listed them but he said to me that the people who brought me from Italy stole them and took them and I responded, "The things are here and they asked me during the interrogations about them," so they tortured me until I signed that I had no belongings.

I took off the clothes they had dressed me in (the blue clothes) and they gave me the clothes I had worn coming in from Italy, the clothes that the people who kidnapped me had dressed me in; a training suit (pajama style) the sleeves were torn as well as the legs of the pants were cut at the bottom down to the legs. They then bound my hands behind my back as well as bound my feet and blindfolded me and then they placed me on a mini-bus and I was very happy as I imagined that I was returning to my country, Italy, after the intervention of the Italian government. They asked me, "Do you know where you are going?" I responded, "To the airport to return to Italy," and they left me and did not respond. The vehicle drove for approximately half an hour and then it stopped and they opened the door and ordered me to step down and they took me to a building and I heard footsteps coming towards me and take me to a room and suddenly I saw many hands beating me all over my body as well as feet and curses from many mouths and then they asked me my name and my age and job and about my family and they told me, "You are now in a place that even blue flies cannot get to," and they put me in a cell while my hands and feet were still bound and I was still blindfolded and they warned me against taking off the blindfold or moving it even a little and they told me that "there is a guard at the door who will be watching you and if he sees you moving the blindfold you will undergo a torture campaign."

I asked them about the "Qibla" [direction for prayer] and where the bathroom was so that I could use and wash for prayer and they said, "You are in a bathroom," and they moved the blindfold slightly to the top and said, "Look at this place where you will urinate and defecate," there was an extremely small hole, "and this is that water that you will use for drinking and for washing after urinating and defecating," the same water container. The cell had no electricity and one cannot tell night from day and has no openings for ventilation and there was one blanket. How can I sleep in a bathroom that smells so disgustingly rotten, that cattle would be embarrassed to urinate or defecate in, let alone a human being? The cell was approximately the same size as the cell in which I stayed for about seven and a half months at the Egyptian National Security & Intelligence building near the Republican Palace in Hadayek El Quba. As for this new place, I found out later that it is called the State Security Apparatus and is in Nasr City in Cairo. And although I do not wish to recollect this place which every time I remember, I remember what I experienced in brutal torture and sexual abuse and I am overtaken with [unclear word] and uncontrollable and continuous weeping. But I will tell of some of what happened to me there.

1. The size of the cell, as I mentioned is 2 meters long by 1 and half meters wide. It has no openings whatsoever for ventilation except for an air filter with a motor that resembles, in sound, the sound of a tank's engine, and there is one blanket that I sleep on and that is extremely dirty and exudes a terrible rotting smell. I believe that dozens of other people have slept on it before me. And the cell is underground where you cannot distinguish between night and day and the cockroaches and rats and insects walk all over my body night and day.

2. I didn't know the times for prayer and was not allowed to wash for prayer, so I would pray in any direction and the beatings and kicking and the electric baton if the guard opened the door and found me sitting or sleeping, I had to get up quickly when I heard the key in the cell door, so I would stand up, face to the wall and my hands lifted high up and would rest on my knees afterwards and they gave me a number in place of my name, number 27 and it was the same number on my cell, so he would say, "Hey number 27!" and I would respond and if I didn't respond, he would brutally beat me. This in regard to the number in the cell as for when they take me for interrogations, they call me by a woman's name or by vagina or male or female asshole.

3. The food presented to me is a kind of rotting hard (like stone) bread that if I eat a piece of, the gums become torn and causes pain to the teeth, the percentage of dirt in this bread is higher than the percentage of flour, one must first wet it in water to be able to chew and swallow and they sometimes present rotten food and very little of it as the policy is to not fulfill the prisoner and to just keep him barely alive merely bones covered in a little meat (a skeleton) or (a semi human being).

4. I stayed in this place "State Security Apparatus" for about 7 and a half months spent in interrogations. And interrogations are held twice a day. The first is at 11 noon [noon prayers are sometimes performed at 11 a.m.] up to afternoon prayers approximately (3:30-4:30 pm) and from 9 p.m. until slightly before dawn. The interrogations are conducted in rooms close to the cells and the prisoner hears in his cell the screams, the howling and the weeping.

When I was first kidnapped in Italy, I had maybe 4 or 5 white hairs in my head and in my beard, but after going to Egypt and after the brutal torture the hair on my head and beard has turned white.

I will try to relay quickly some of what would happen in the interrogation rooms:

1. In the preliminary times, they would curse Italy and its government for giving me political asylum and they would say to me, "It is Italy that gave you to Egypt, and no one will come to rescue you from this torture." And they ordered me to write a waiver of my political asylum which I obtained in Italy .

2. At the beginning of the interrogation process, the guard opens my cell door and makes sure to blindfold me tightly and changes the position of my bound hands to behind my back out of fear that I would remove the blindfold and witness the officer that is interrogating and torturing me. My feet remain bound and then I'm dragged to the interrogation rooms. They then remove all my clothes (naked as the day my mother gave birth to me) and they let me into where the interrogators are who order them to play with my genitals in order to humiliate me and then the brutal torture begins and which continues throughout the time that one spends in this "State Security Apparatus" seven and a half months.

3. I was hung like slaughtered cattle, head down, feet up, hands tied behind my back, feet also tied together, and I was exposed to electric shocks all over my body and especially the head area to weaken the brain and paralyze it and in the nipples and my genitals and my penis and I was beaten in my genitals with a stick and they were squeezed if I refused to answer or lied to the interrogator.

4. I was exposed to all forms of crucifixion. They crucified me on a metal door, and on a wooden apparatus which they call "El Arousa" or "the bride" hands up high, behind my back, to the sides as well as the feet tightly together and spread apart and torture during crucifixion by means of electric shocks and by being kicked and beaten with electric cables, water hoses and whipped.

5. Newspapers, magazines, radio, television, paper, pen, talking with the guard and even the Koran are all absolutely prohibited; it would be easier to ask for my release than to ask for the Koran. I dared once to ask the guard for the Koran and it turned into a day that was blacker than night; they told me, "So you can see through your blindfold and you have the strength to hold the Koran in your hands and you have the patience to bear the pains of torture." So, they multiplied my torture many times more than what I used to endure and had they brought me the Koran, I wouldn't have been able to read it for the room is dark black and you can't see your own hands but I had hoped to kiss the Koran with my lips and to hug it to my chest even for just a few minutes so that some of the humiliation and torture and pain that I`ve been through would depart from me.

6. They beat me severely on both ears until I lost hearing in one ear.

7. I underwent torture through what they call "the mattress" and it is a mattress that is placed on the tiled floor of the torture chamber and it is wet down with water and attached to electricity. My hands were tied behind my back and so were my feet and someone sat on a wooden chair between my shoulder blades and another sat on a wooden chair between my legs and the electricity was switched on and I find myself raised from the strength of the electricity that is touching the water but the wooden chairs are keeping me from rising high and then the electricity is switched off and the interrogator tortures me by electric shocks to my genitals while cursing me and telling, "Let Italy be of benefit to you."

8. Depriving me of any long periods of sleep and leaving me standing for hours and not allowing me to bathe except once every 4 months and they left the hair on my head and beard without cutting it until they released me in April 2004 and returned me to my home and family and I saw myself in the mirror and found myself resembling Saddam Hussein when they captured him in the famous hole.

9. I was placed near the torture chambers for long periods of time to hear the screams of the tortured and their moans and their howls so that I would collapse psychologically and sure enough I experienced episodes of epilepsy and passing out.

10. I was sexually abused and sodomized twice and this was the worst thing that I went through for signs of physical torture eventually go away and the pain goes away but the psychological repercussion and the bitterness and scandal of sexual violation remain. This sexual violation occurred twice where my hands were restrained behind my back and so were my feet and they lay me on my stomach, naked, and someone lay on top of me and began to try to rape me and I screamed so hard and so loud that I passed out and I don't know whether he raped me or he was just intimidating and threatening.

11. When they took me to the State Security Prosecution in March and April 2004 they tortured me before going to the prosecutor and they would say, "Memorize what we say to you to repeat to the chief prosecutor, tell the chief prosecutor that you came to Egypt of your own free will and that you bought an Egypt Air ticket and upon descending into the Cairo airport you went to the security office at the airport and gave them your Italian passport and explained to them your story and that you want to reside in Egypt. Every time I returned from the State Security Prosecutor they question me and ask about what I'd said and they would say to me, "We will know if you are being honest or are lying." Sure enough I said to the prosecutor what they told me to say and the prosecutor never asked me why my face was swollen or the reasons behind the wounds on my face or for the reason for leaving my hair, moustache and beard so long.

I can no longer continue to write about the conditions of brutal torture that I experienced. All I care about with regards to my presence at the State Security Apparatus in Nasr City is death. But there are no means or tools that I can use to do so, for it is the crime of suicide, but I had lost my mind after the electric shocks to my brain and head.

I obtained, later in April 2004, a release from the State Security Prosecution after several interrogations and I was released and they brought me back to the State Security Prosecutor and some investigators sat with me and told me that I was going home to my family and siblings but that I should beware of opening my mouth and telling anything about what had happened to me from my kidnapping in Italy to my torture in Egypt. And I returned to my home and family in Alexandria and I stayed with them for approximately 20 days, and during those days I called my wife and children in Europe as well as my friends and told them everything in detail beginning with my abduction to my torture in Egypt; and they arrested me again. I forgot to say that after I was released, I was transported from the State Security Appartus in Cairo to its branch in Alexandria where I stayed for about 3 days and where I was met by state security officers and they gave me what is known as "the Holy Nos" and they told me, "Don't you dare, don't you dare go against these holy nos:

"1. Do not go the mosques of the Islamic Jama'a and don't pray there.

"2. Do not call Europe at all and do not go to the Italian Embassy or Consulate.

"3. You are prohibited from any form of travel.

"4. Do not go to human rights groups nor contact them.

"5. Do not speak at mosques or teach.

"6. Do not mention what's happened to you to anyone.

"7. Do not travel outside Alexandria without prior authorization not even to nearby governorates."
Once again a prime exemplar of what is being done in our names.